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Hardball With Chris Matthews

News/Business. (2011) (CC)

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Us 11, Japan 9, Sendai 6, Msnbc 6, Alex Thompson 5, U.s. 5, California 4, United States 4, Campbell 3, Britain 3, Markey 2, Anne Thompson 2, Chuck Todd 2, Americares 2, Motrin 2, Alex 2, America 2, Chernobyl 2, Eric Brinkmann 1, Nasa 1,
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  MSNBC    Hardball With Chris Matthews    News/Business.  (2011)  (CC)  

    March 14, 2011
    7:00 - 8:00pm EDT  

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we stand together because one falls, we all fall. >> all right. at's the right attitude, if you ask me. eric brinkmann and robert, i want to thank both of you tonight for your time. we really appreciate it. listen, it's a dramatic day, no question about it. stay tuned right here at msnbc for more coverage of japan as well. we want to thank you for watching tonight and "hardball" starts right now. nuclear planet. this is "hardball." good evening. i'm chris matthews in los angeles. leading off tonight, japanese meltdown. the country of japan is confronting a grim reality three days after the massive earthquake and tsunami. thousands of bodies are washing up on the shore and the death toll is likely to go over 10,000 dead. and for many who survived the catastrophe, there's no power,
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no running water, and very little food. the disaster in japan is threefold. humanitarian and economic, but also nuclear. after several explosions at a nuclear reactor increased the threat of meltdown. we'll get the latest from the earthquake zone at the top of the show. plus, the nuclear crisis. can meltdown be avoided? what meltdown fears in japan mean for nuclear energy here in america. and later, the relief effort, overwhelming in a country that hasn't seen this level of hardship since world war ii. we begin with alex thompson of britain's channel 4. he joins us from sendai, japan. alex, tell us what you've seen over there. it's quite dramatic. >> reporter: i've covered disasters around the world and wars for 22 years. i've never seen anything quite on the scale of this. let me give you just one example of a town that we went to. you walk in, you can't drive, but you walk in to a place which has been completely pulverized.
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you might see one or two buildings which are made of concrete, which have withstood the tsunami, and then there'll be anything up to a mile, a mile and a half of utter wasteland, debris, houses reduced to matchwood, personal effects, a child's doll, a wedding photograph, an old guitar, and thousands, hundreds of thousands of tons of girders, of bricks, of morter, of concrete, anything imaginable that you could see from a town which has been put through the most extraordinary pulverizing machine of the tsunami. you can build in a certain degree of protection against earthquakes, and goodness me, the japanese do that as well as anybody on the planet. you cannot build in protection against these sorts of forces when a tsunami upwards of 30 feet high comes in to a town at 15 to 20 miles an hour and pushes five, six miles into the land. >> does the government or do the news media have a full picture
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yet of the damage? >> reporter: we do not have anything like a full picture of the damage. i'm speaking to you from sendai, which is one of the more easily accessible towns. even today, at the shoreline here, they were going around picking up bodies, collecting bodies. now, that is the source of things you see, usually, on the first 24/48 hours from a disaster like this happening. this is happening in one of the most accessible areas, four days into the disaster. and the range of the disaster is extraordinary. to the south of where i'm speaking, there is a very real possibility tonight of a full-scale nuclear meltdown at a nuclear power plant. to the north of where i'm speaking, there's a major forest fire going on, caused by oil tanks being ruptured by the earthquake. and all they've got to get people off that island, all they've got to do the job is simply one small helicopter. >> what can't you see in the pictures? what's it like to confront the
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faces of the japanese people in these hours? >> reporter: the japanese people are showing the most extraordinary stoicism for which they are quite rightly noted the world over. but you know, there's also an extraordinary warmth and compassion. let me put it this way. we went into a town which was almost completely destroyed. it's without question the worst affected town in this entire disaster and the area is huge, let me tell you. the woman came out, she was living in a school dormitory with her family because her house has been obliterated. she looked unsure, she looked a little suspicious, who were we? what did we want? then it was explained to her via our interpreter. she hugged her, she hugged the producer. she said, i thank you. i can't believe you've come from the other side of the world. i can't believe people care. i can't believe they're interested, but i'm so glad that the outside world now cares and sees what is happening to us. >> after world war ii, the
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japanese people foreswore war as a foreign policy. they reject eed militarism of a kind. they thought they were not going to see this kind of devastation. is this a shock to them, to face this from a natural cause rather than war? >> reporter: no, it's not a shock to them. the concept is not a shock. they live with it every day. you need and you can get special insurance, for instance, for earthquakes in this country, and special insurance to cover you for tsunami protection. they're going to be paying out on that one in a very big way, let me tell you. they live with the idea that you have to take part in mass evacuation drills all the time. they're very well averse to what seismic activity and plate tectonics can do in this part of the world. they're very well aversed to the possibility of tsunamis. they do happen. but a tsunami on this scale has simply taken the entire country by surprise, from its stock exchange and its major corporations to slowing down and even closing some of their factories, right through to
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ordinary people who have lived with the possibility of a tsunami, perhaps on their small house by the beach, but never, ever thought they would see anything on this kind of scale. >> this must be an obvious question, and i don't think there is an answer, but i'll try with you, alex, you're on site. did they ever think of tsunami, earthquake, and the dangers of nuclear energy all at once? >> reporter: i think they probably did, and i know, for a fact, that the kind of building, the kind of design which goes into their pwrs, their pressurized water reactors, which absolutely fringe on the island, it's the main source of power for the country, it's their engine house, yes, they did. and yes, they engineered these things into the situation. but it's fair to say that they are now looking at that very carefully in the future, looking at redesigning. vladimir putin has ordered a redesign of russian nuclear installations on the pacific seaboard as a matter of urgency. the size of this earthquake, it went on for more than a minute. it was well over 8 on the scale
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of magnitude. it was relatively close to the shore. the length of it, the profundity of it and the resulting tsunamis have created a situation where i think all nations are really thinking again and looking into the redesigning of future reactors. >> finally, the social order of the country. you noticed the -- you talk to the stoicism of the japanese people, which you say is world renowned. how well are they working together? are they operating as a community, as a nation? is there any chaos that you can see? >> reporter: the remarkable thing is, chaos, no, absolutely not. a number of people have noted the fact in our teams that there's no looting here to speak of. i've heard of no reports of that. there are great shortages of petrol, of gas. what you get is simply long queues, a mile, two pimiles is t unusual for people to sit patiently and wait for a small ration of gasoline. that's the kind of thing you
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have. you're getting that at food shops and for water. people are very organized about it, very patient about it. but what they need is simply more people, more plants, more know-how. >> okay. from sendai, japan, it's been great getting your very tough reporting and excellent reporting, alex thompson of the uk, channel 4. sir, thank you for that report. >> reporter: you're most welcome. coming up, much more on this nuclear crisis in japan. can meltdown be avoided? that is the question. you're watching "hardball" only on msnbc. [ male announcer ] you are a business pro.
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one of the worst affected areas is this industrial and housing zone around the airport. some of the first images broadcast of the tsunami came from here. the water, barreling ashore and sweeping across sendai airport friday, engulfing runways and battering the air bridges. this is what it looked like on the ground today. this is the parking lot of the sendai flying school. now amid the wrecked cars sits this training aircraft, dumped here by the wave, swept from the hangers over the back there. >> when we return, the nuclear crisis in japan and what it will take to avoid a meltdown. when you pour chunky beef with country vegetable soup over it, you can do dinner. 4 minutes, around 4 bucks. campbell's chunky. it's amazing what soup can do.™ to finish what you started today. for the aches and sleeplessness in between, there's motrin pm.
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back to "hardball." right now, all attention is on a widening nuclear crisis in japan. on saturday, there was an explosion at reactor number one at the fukushima nuclear plant, 150 miles north of tokyo.
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early this morning, another explosion at reactor number three at the same plant. while the explosions damaged the buildings surrounding the reactors, japanese officials say the containment vessels remain in tact. well, the nuclear fuel rods have overheated because the earthquake knocked out the electricity used to pump in the regular water that's used as a coola coolant. the japanese have started injected seawater into the reactors which will disable them permanently. can japan avoid a full meltdown? what should we expect in the days ahead? joining me right now is nbc chief environmental affairs correspondent, anne thompson. anne, how many reactors are a problem at this point? >> there are three reactors at this plant that are a problem, chris. units one and units three, as you mentioned, where they both endured hydrogen explosions. but today, you know, the biggest concern has really been about unit two. and that's because the water level in unit two dropped so dramatically that it exposed the
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fuel rods, and that's a problem. because when the fuel rods are exposed, there's no water to cool them, and then melting begins. and that's what they're trying to avoid. they managed to get some hoses hooked up and they started pumping seawater into unit two as well. they were the only three units that were active when the earthquake struck. and the reactors actually worked, because they shut them down. i mean, the systems, when it worked as they should, they shut them down. what didn't work was the backup power system. they run on diesel generators. once they shut down, they're off the grid. they run on diesel generators. when the tsunami came in, the tsunami knocked out those diesel generators and then you go to backup battery power. well, apparently the backup battery power they had didn't last long enough. >> and that was to provide the coolant. and explain how that normally works. normally you have to cool down these rods, right? >> right. you have to cool down these rods. and what they do, it's simple.
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they pump water into them. they use the term "coolant," but it's just water. and that pump runs from power on the grid. and when the grid got knocked down, then you go to the diesel generator and then the backup battery and they all failed. when that happens, you're not getting water in to cover the rods and the water level goes down and then you have exposed rods and you can have melting. and that's what they are desperately trying to avoid. and they clearly made a decision, some people call it a hail mary pass, some people call it a last-ditch effort, but they've decided to pour seawater in there, because the most important thing is to get those rods cooled down and to prevent melting. and in pouring in the seawater, for all intents and purposes, the experts i've talked to said they've lost use of those reactors. >> you know, it reminds me of being a kid and growing up and driving old cars and overheated engines because the water's not cooling the engine, but in this case, it's serious business, as
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you and i know. it's not just one car along the side of the road with an overheated engine. here's the question. i haven't thought about this and most of us haven't, but you know this issue. what happens to people when they're exposed to radiation? the kind that might come out of these potential or even halfway meltdowns? >> well, the biggest risk is that you could get cancer. and i think that's the -- and the other thing is, you can't see it. you can't feel it. you can't smell it. you don't know where it is. and that is the, perhaps, the most frightening part of it. but that's the real danger, getting exposed to a heavy dose of radiation, that you could get cancer. so one of the things that they do, this is why they hand out those iodine pills, because the stable iodine that they give you, that protects your thyroid from taking in any kind of radioactive material and therefore causing thyroid cancer. but those iodine pills only protect your thyroid, they don't protect other parts of your
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body. >> thank you, anne thompson, with that great report. for more now on the control of this nuclear crisis, and that's the issue, controlling the crisis, we turn to charles ferguson, the president of the federation of american scientists. i guess, charles, the question now is how does this -- we grew up with the term fallout, all those concerns about nuclear testing we had to deal with back in the '50s and in the '60s, then we stopped some of those concerns. but right now, what's the concern of the fallout coming from japan across the pacific, if you will, to our own country? >> well, chris, to date myself, i grew up near three mile island. i was just entering high school went the accident happened in 1979 and i remember those concerns back then. and there are dozens of radioactive isotopes that are produced from the fission reaction. and as anne was saying, iodine is just one of them we can protect against. but there are others that we need to make sure people are away from the area and the japanese authorities have seemed to do the right thing. get people out of the area as
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quickly as possible to minimize the exposure. >> let's take a look at this grid we have seen, it's a horrific grid, but it compares the various nuclear meltdown scenarios. we have the chernobyl, of course, in our deep memory of the soviet union, where that occurred, and that was the worst. here's chernobyl. it has the highest rating, a seven. the levels below that are at five, three mile island, that got a five. the japanese officials are saying now that the situation at fukushima right now, the one we're looking at, that plant is still a four. give us a sense of what that means, seven being chernobyl, five being three mile island, and they be the difference not just in the meltdown degree, but the level of successful containment. put those two factors together, meltdown, degree, and containment. >> absolutely. this is not going to be a chernobyl-type of an accident, because in chernobyl, there was not a containment structure to keep that radioactive material inside the nuclear plant. and apparently what the japanese authorities are saying is the primary containment structure that's around the reactor core itself is still in tact. the hydrogen explosions of
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reactors one and three extended blow holes through the secondary containment structure. that's the concern, because spent fuel pools are inside that containment building and if those lose water, those heat up, then we could potentially have radioactive material going into the environment. so if i had to rate this on a scale of three-mile island or chernobyl, i would say this is probably going to be worse than three-mile island, but not nearly as bad as chernobyl. >> i never trusted the old communist soviet union, they never told us the truth. i never felt they give us the truth about chernobyl. the united states does value individual citizens. whatever you think of the capitalist system, our government tends to look out for people. why were we more successful in containment with three mile than they were in chernobyl? is it a different in the cultural and economic systems? >> that's a key part of it. in fact, gorbachev said the
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secrecy with chernobyl was probably a major factor in the downfall of the soviet union. but speaking as an engineer, i'm proud to say a lot of u.s. navy personnel stepped up to the plate right after the three mile island accident and improved safety of the nuclear system in the united states. the design of that nuclear reactor at three mile island was much, much better than at chernobyl. >> we have 31 designed nuclear plants in the united states that are similar to the one over at fukushima right now, the one causing the great concern right now. do you think we have a better backup system than they do? they don't have a good one, because it was undermined by the tsunami. it affected the battery backup to the diesel system, none of it worked. they ended up putting in seawater, which is destroying their plant, as an extreme measure. how are we in that regard? in terms of nuclear diesel backup, battery backup, do we have all these backup systems? >> we do. and there are parts of the
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united states and california where there are two nuclear plants at diablo canyon and san aknow frey where concerns have been raised about sieismic activity. in fact, in 2008, a fault was found near the diablo canyon site. and a nuclear regulatory commission said, we're on top of it, we're checking it out. the plant is safe against those types of accidents. but, still, you've got to wonder. and think we're going to see a reevaluation of nuclear power in the united states as a result of this event. >> what would you do? one instinct? what's your first instinct that we didn't know and what we have learned from this disaster, potentially worst disaster in japan? >> well, to put is much a nuclear plant right on the coastline, facing east and honshu, fronting the pacific ocean, and they invented the word "tsunami" in japan, so i don't want to point too many fingers of blame at the
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japanese. i know why they've invested so much in nuclear power, but they should have been better prepared for this sort of catastrophe, even though it's a once in a lifetime event. >> it's a perfect storm in hell. great analysis. appreciate it. coming up, those explosions of the japanese nuclear reactor have many in america -- well, this is an understatement -- rethinking nuclear power. because even some of the liberals who thought they were totally anti-nuke have come around because of the concerns about energy, but we're now rethinking the whole thing. will this threat of the meltdown in japan change our politics on nuclear at home? you're watching "hardball" on msnbc.
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sweet & salty nut bars... they're made from whole roasted nuts and dipped in creamy peanut butter, making your craving for a sweet & salty bar irresistible, by nature valley. i don't want to stop the building of nuclear power plants, but i think we've got to kind of quietly put the brakes on until we can absorb what has happened in japan as a result of the earthquake and the tsunami. >> i don't think right after a major environmental catastrophe
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is a very good time to be making american domestic policy. i think we ought to just concentrate on helping the japanese in any way that we can. >> we're going to have to see what happens here. obviously, it's still -- still things are happening. i'm still willing to look at nuclear, as i've always said. it has to be done safely and carefully. >> welcome back to "hardball." that was an array of opinion, and some of the reaction on sunday to what's happening in japan politically here at home. are u.s. reactors ready to handle a similar disaster? we've seen the political reaction, but now democratic congressman ed markey, an expert in this field, he's been chairman -- in fact, he's ranking member, but he's been expert on the democratic side for decades. now, mr. markey, here's the question. it seemed like the president, a democrat, and many democrats were willing, given the kpenlgsy of our energy needs in the world, the dependence on the middle east with all its craziness and uncertainty, we were willing to go into an area we really didn't want to go into, nuclear. now we see the danger in the other direction.
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what's it going to do to our politics? >> well, again, it's not protesters that have hurt nuclear power over the last 30 years, it's investors. after three mile island, after chernobyl, investors, wall street just walked away from nuclear power. so just as some confidence had begun to be built in the industry, we now have the worst accident in the history of the world with the exception of chernobyl. so i think that what we're about to see is a dramatic rise in risk premium for wall street to invest in nuclear power plants. they've already said, all along, that they won't build any nuclear power plants unless the taxpayers guarantee it, which is the condition which the nuclear industry and wall street have extracted from the last couple of congresses, but this makes it even more dangerous out in the marketplace. so i think that it was never going to be a large part of the electricity mix in our country going forward. i think this is going to harm it
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even more. >> congressman, let's take a look at a map that shows the risky earthquake areas in our country. the red areas are the highest risk. and we can see them, out near the san andreas fault on the west coast, here's a map of the 104 active nuclear power plants oversetting that in our country. they're mostly in the eastern half of the country. and here are those two maps together, showing the quake-prone areas and the plants themselves. have we been careful to array our plants away from the earthquake zones? >> no, we have not. for example, the san onofre nuclear power plant in california is only built to withstand a 7.0 earthquake. the san francisco earthquake of 1906 was a 7.38 earthquake. the diablo canyon plant in california is built on an earthquake fault, which, by the way, was not discovered until after the whole plant had been designed and shell oil was out drilling for oil and they found the fault. the same thing is true down in
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southeastern united states. another earthquake-prone area. so we have not avoided them. and in fact, the yucca mountain nuclear waste site is right on an earthquake fault. so, obviously, over the years, there's, i think, been a little bit of wishful thinking that an earthquake could not occur in the united states, but we're getting a very serious warning from japan that we should not believe that humanity can trump mother nature. and if mother nature decides to strike, we will have big problems. >> this has been quite an lesson for us all, and it may get worse. congressman, what is a good, smart, prudent move to make now if you are a centrist on this issue? is there such a thing as a centrist on this issue? >> i do not believe that confidence will be high in nuclear power unless a centrist steps back and says that we must do a complete re-examination of the premise upon which we build nuclear power plants in our country, that we build true
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defense in depth into the new facilities. and by the way, that we review the latest almost-approved design at the nuclear regulatory commission, the westinghouse ap 1000 design, that one of the top scientists at the nuclear regulatory commission is saying is so vulnerable that it could shatter like a glass cup. so if boosterism replaces common sense and rationality, then that boosterism is going to lead for a catastrophe for the industry financially, because the public will not trust the experts unless the experts can convince the public that they are taking these warnings very seriously. >> it's good to have you on, congressman. i know you're one of the few people in this country that's taken the -- the danger of nuclear energy seriously for all these decades. thank you for coming on. jason grusme is with us now. give us another perspective on this, sir. i want to get as rich a perspective -- i mean, most people look at the conversation
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we've had tonight about us getting cancer, the possibility that in order to get energy, we have to risk cancer is too high a risk. your perspective? >> well, chris, and first of all, i want to applaud congressman markey for all his efforts over the past decades to make nuclear power safer. but the big issue, chris, is all we want is energy that is cheap, clean, secure, reliable, and domestic. that's all we want. >> is there such a thing? >> no, there's in the such a thing. so continued investment in longer-term r&d is one of the answers. in the meantime, we have to balance imperatives. and one of the real attributes of nuclear pour is not only that it's 20% of our existing electrogeneration, but it's over 70% of our noncarbon generation. and congressman markey has been one of the strongest advocates for the need to deal with climate change and other pollution issues. and to suggest that we jump away from that towards coal or even natural gas, i think, is unrealistic. >> well, let's talk about jumping away. i was at the dentist on saturday
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and i noticed, as i do notice whenever i got to the dentist and you get one of those x-rays, the dentist leaves the room. the dental assistant or the nurse in some cases will leave the room. so we do know that there's a danger of too much radiation. we've known it for decades, if not a couple of generations now. are we taking the same kind of precautions that a doctor takes when we build a nuclear plant? are we going all the way in making sure we don't get radioactive danger? >> well, look, i think we certainly have made all of the efforts that we've been able to, and this tragedy is going to force us to reconsider a lot of these concerns. but also worth noting, we haven't built a plan for 40 years. the ap 1000, which is being considered, is major technological advancement based on what is on the ground today. and also, i think, important to focus on is the fact that we keep talking about seismic, seismic, seismic. but it seems to me the real issue was the tsunami. and i think we really need to be looking not at the seismic zones as the tsunami zones if we're
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going the try to understand the impact on the u.s. >> and we don't have tsunamis in our country, you're saying? >> it was 4,000 years ago that the last major underground landslide created a wave of the magnitude or greater than we just saw in japan. >> and you're not worried about the san andreas fault out in california and those nuclear plants? >> look, chris, i'm worried about everything and i'm worried about coal mining accidents and climate change and mercury pollution. i think the question right now is both looking forward and looking at the existing facilities. there will be a hard-core look at existing u.s. facilities. >> just to put my perspective, there's a difference between in a coal mining accident where the courageous, gutsy coal miners get trapped down there, and that's a horror, and it affects the workers. there's a -- we've had a deep drilling problem down in the gulf, which was scary in terms of environment. but nuclear affects human lives immediately and in the long-term. it kills -- we saw what happened when we dropped nuclear weapons on japan. we saw the dangers of chernobyl and the reality, the horror of
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it. and almost the horror of three mile island and we're looking at it, every time i drive by three mile island, it scares me to look at it. are you saying that nuclear's not in the same category as other energy sources? zblu >> absolutely not. nuclear has low-probability, high-tolerance problems. we have to use all deliberate knowledge to make sure that we're confident that that won't happen. but at the same time, nothing that just happened in japan suggests that our existing facilities are vulnerable. >> okay. well, that's an argument you've made and we'll hear other arguments tonight. jason grumet, thank you so much for joining us. tonight, we'll be on "the tonight show" on a hopefully lighter note, but we'll probably be talking about this tonight. you're watching "hardball." [ male announcer ] a chicken coop:
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i'm milissa rehberger with breaking news. we're getting reports out of japan that an explosion has been heard at one of the nuclear reactors in japan. new evacuations have been ordered. stay with msnbc for more updates. in other news, libyan army, navy, and air force continue their assault on rebel positions in two key cities in the eastern part of that country. g-8 ministers are urging the u.n. to re-open discussions ant setting up a no-fly zone. the pentagon says it had no advance warning that saudi troops were being sent into bahrain to help 12 anti-government protests there. a nasa contractor fell to his death on the launch pad at cape canaveral, the first fatality there in nearly three decades. democratic national committee chairman and former virginia governor tim kaine says he is likely to run for the senate seat being vacated by the retiring jim webb. and comedian gilbert godf y
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godfreyed has been fired as the voice of the aflac duck after some tasteless comments about the disaster in japan. now back to "hardball". back to "hardball." now to the humanitarian relief challenge following the devastation over there. the tsunami caused devastation in japan. susan de france is public affairs officer for the american red cross and can curt welling is the president ceo of americares. susie, good to see you, around strange circumstances. what are you looking at as a red cross spokesperson for what, the hell over there that we have to deal with. >> we're working with our counterparts, the japanese red cross. they're a very strong society. they have about 2 million volunteers and they're very experienced at this kind of work. but something like this can overwhelm even the best
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organizations. so we've sent one of our top people over there to work with them as part of a team. we're also getting ready to make a pretty sizable financial donation to them. that's going to help them care for what is a mounting number of people in shelters. the last count i saw was about 500,000 people in shelters. so these people need food, water, blankets, relief items. they need emotional support. we're seeing a lot of seniors. the japanese society has a number of seniors. and of course, they have their own needs. so the needs are great, but i'm confident that with this extra help, they're going to be met. this, again, as i said, is a very capable organization. when we worry the most about, though, are some of the people we haven't been able to get to who are cut off in some 80 different communities, either because the tsunami water has
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receded, but you know, you can't get in there through the roads. so there's some people that still haven't received any help. >> let me go now to curt welling. the long-term challenge, i mean, we're talking about a can country that's been hit, i've never seen pictures like this. none of us have ever seen pictures like this. and now the president, i did like the way he moved quickly to offer our u.s. aid, in terms of airlift and food supplies for the emergency support that only the military can give in a big power way. what's down the road here, curt? >> well, chris, the pictures remind me a lot of the tsunami aftermath in sri lanka and indonesia more than five years ago. all these crises have a rhythm, they have unique elements, obviously, but they have a search and rescue phase, where we're trying desperately to get to as many people as possible to prevent loss of life. then there's a phase where we're caring for the fragile population that's been displaced. and that could be as many as 1 million people in this emergency. but then there's a
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rehabilitation and reconstruction phase, and candidly, we don't yet know how long it's going to be before we can get there, because the great thing hanging in the balance is what you're talking about, whether we're going to have some kind of radiation or nuclear event, which would obviously take this crisis and increase its magnitude and severity enormously. >> suzy, how do you get people to go into an earthquake zone that's a tsunami zone and it's also a potential nuclear hazard for them for them? >> well, it's a real triple threat. you're absolutely right. i will say that we know that the red cross of japan has been trained in nuclear and biochemical response, so they have about 31 teams that are trained in that. they also have specialists at the hospital, a red cross team that, again, has a lot of experience in that. so that would certainly be who would be called on to help in this kind of situation. >> what a challenge.
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what a challenge. i hope we can have a part in this, because i think it's a great goodwill opportunity for us and one of our big friends in the world, since world war ii, certainly. suzy defrancis, thank you, curt welling, thank you for that effort. if you want to give some money to the american red cross or to americares, go to our website for donation information. it's hardball.msnbc.com. real simple, hardball.msnbc.com. when we return, incredible pictures of devastation. we'll go back to japan for a firsthand look at the destruction. this is "hardball," only on msnbc. enough whole grain. but actually, it's never been easier to get the whole grain you want from your favorite big g cereals. from cheerios to lucky charms, there's whole grain in every box. make sure to look for the white check. there's whole grain in every box. but you can still refinance to a fixed rate as low as 4.75% at lendingtree.com, where customers save an average of $293 a month. call lending tree at...
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we're back. at the beginning of tonight's "hardball," we talked to alex thompson of britain's channel 4. well, last night thompson filed a remarkable report for "dateline nbc" that we thought you should see about the total destruction of a small city in northern japan. so once again, here's alex thompson. >> reporter: the offshore islands and the beaches were renowned. minamisanriku itself famed for its festivals across the calendar. now, one date, friday, march 11th, 2011, the day minamisanriku was obliterated. the destruction here, they say, worse than anywhere else in japan.
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95% of the town gone. and all by a huge tsunami of 30 or 40 feet. it plowed over the roofs of these four-story tower blocks. after miles of country unaffected by earthquakes, you come to it with immediate effect. past the police checkpoint and the silence strikes you. kites and buzzards quarter the rubble. and yet another body, quietly removed with whatever dignity an old blanket can provide. squads of police continue the retrieval process. but hardly anybody here appeared to be looking for survivors. as if this town hasn't suffered enough, it's frankly -- well, the pictures tell their own story. it's pulverized and right now we're being told to get out because they're saying there's another tsunami alert.
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so, as you can see, we've got to go. between such alarms, they wander back during the day. some, bewildered, others, phlegmatic. but all, simply dwarfed by this. the empires of men upturned in moments. tell me, how many people have been killed in this town? >> unsure, but according to the news, 10,000 people died out of 17,000 people in town. >> reporter: 10,000 out of 17,000? >> yeah, yeah. it's hard. >> reporter: killed in this awful collision between the incomprehensibly vast with the pathetically intimate. the sheer force and scale of it's hard to take in.
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hundreds of thousands of tons of saltwater and debris rushing up this valley, filling it 40 feet deep at 15, 20 miles an hour. look at it, canals reformed, embankments gone, harbor walls obliterated. where i'm standing now, look at that. mile and a half inland from the harbor, the distant sea there, also obliterated. when you go there way, you look up the valley, up past the old telecommunications building. that goes around the bend at least another mile. there is no hospital here. that's gone. so serious injuries must be flown out with the japanese defense force. the waiting can be simple, undignified even. but a real sense of a community pulling together in all this. and astonishment that the
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outside world should care. at the school, a woman hugged us and said i can't believe you've come all the way from england for this. pulling together, too, behind the school gym, delicate work. the bureaucracy of death. identifying bodies, sending them on for their funerals. this is a small town. they know these people. nine more bodies, this time from a building next door to the high school. the old people's home, who used to go to the restaurant in town. there's nothing left now except the concrete base. they are shouting run, run, and not very politely. it is another tsunami alert. nothing happened here, though in fact there were a couple of tidal waves a little further up the coast.
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and look at the faces in what's left of this town who takes such warnings seriously. and should you wonder why so many are missing, presumed dead, when the town had 30 minutes warning between quake and tsunami, the answer is in the terrain. in a steep valley north, south, and west. the one road out was quickly jammed as the 40 foot wave began coming in. >> that's alex thompson of channel 4 from the u.k. extraordinary reporting. up next, the latest from the white house. chuck todd will join us. you're watching "hardball," only on msnbc. than any others. pantene... olay... venus & gillette... and secret. the four most awarded brands. keeping you your most beautiful from head to toe. you've been stuck in the garage, while my sneezing
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we're back. president obama pledged big support for japan in the recovery efforts as they try to recover from the horrendous tsunami and disaster with regard to nuclear. joined by nbc news cheap white house correspondent chuck todd and eugene robinson. i was struck by the president's quickness with which he said we're going to help our friend. your thoughts about that, chuck? >> well, it is the number, if you were going to rank our allies, may be the second closest ally after great britain, economically, all the things we have done since world
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war ii to help it become the economy it is today, so in many ways it shouldn't be a surprise, and let's remember the importance of the military troops japan is to us militarily. it is not a surprise when you think about it in stra teenager in terms and of course simply economically. >> let me go to gene. the president was at his best in terms of quickness. here is a country that bought into our culture since the war, baseball probably the most impressive country in buying our culture in many ways. what do you think of the way he handled this? >> what was interesting to me was the way the president noted his personal connection to japanese culture, having been raised in hawaii, which has a heavy influence of japanese culture, he is familiar with it. i think it affected him personally. in terms of humanitarian response of trying to help the japanese, i think he has been as fast and correct as you could possibly be. but the big question going
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forward for the white house i think is nuclear power in this country. what have we learned from the fukushima on-going calamity, and how does he respond to that. he has been a big proponent of nuclear power. >> the whole democratic party moved over for a position of hard skepticism to acceptance because of the pressure we're under to try to reduce our need for fossil fuel. is this going to force a step back, and to where? anwar? where do you pull back from nuclear? what's the alternative? >> that's the struggle with this. you can look at what foreign oil has done, it dragged us into quite a bit of military conflict in the middle east. that's one aspect of this. you look at nuclear, and obviously there's catastrophic impact if there's a total meltdown of a nuclear plant. a lot of people died mining for coal in this country. that's not exactly the safest
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way. so the stark reality in all of this is that is there an energy source out there outside of wind and solar, those are the two that don't come with collateral damage. >> yes. but let's go to you, eugene, you're writing about this for tomorrow. we are looking at this. we look at this, we looked at what happened in gulf of mexico with deep drilling, we see the deep dangers of mining for coal. perhaps the most dangerous in terms of our imagination is the nuclear, let's face it, affected planets. what's your alternative, i'll be blunt. >> what i think you have to do now, i think you have to take a pause and take a hard look at nuclear, decide whether we want to go that way. statistically, that's probably the safest way to generate power. however, in the very improbable